If Rose de la Fontaine was the first patient who died in the care of Julia Achard, she was not the last.
On 11 May 1901 a coroner’s inquest met in Tiburon over the remains of Sarah Ahern who had died under peculiar circumstances. Several newspapers reported of the tragic death of Mrs. Ahern.
"(Sarah Ahern) was taken in on Friday of last week and Dr. Florence Scott and Dr. Collichon of Belvedere were called in attendance. They stated their belief that she was suffering from the effect of medicine given her by a malpractitioner. Mrs. Ahern refused to give the name of the physician who gave her the medicine and died on Thursday. After her death Dr. Collichon found a box of pills with the name of Mrs. J. A. Achard written on them. The woman was called as a witness at the inquest yesterday but denied ever having seen Mrs. Ahern or giving her the medicine.[i]
Several witnesses testified at the inquest, including Dr. Scott, who testified, “She (Sarah) told me that she had taken some pills on and off for about 2 months, and that they were given to her by a party who she refused to name. After the death Mr. Ahern found some cards in a box on the bureau bearing the name of Mrs. J. A. Achard of 415 A 3rd St. San Francisco. I was not present at the birth of the child. I think the cause of death was septicemia caused by a mis-carriage.”[ii]
Shortly before Sarah’s death, Julia Achard had married her fifth husband, James Shiland, a 67- year old carpenter.[iii] Her testimony at the inquest on the remains of Sarah Ahern is as follows:
"Julia Shiland being duly sworn deposes and says My names is Julia Shiland. I live at 415 A 3rd St. S.F. I have lived there about 1 year. I am a midwife. I knew Mrs. Sarah E. Ahern. I have known her about 2 years. I made her a visit the day before yesterday. I came over on her invitation. I did not see or give her any pills. I gave her no advice. She told me that she had her menses on while I was here. I am the lady that you telephoned this morning. I have been over here twice to see her. I am acquainted with Mr. Ahern. I did not see him that day. The wife has called to see me in the city and I did not ask her any questions. I came up the other day as a friend. I am positive that I did not prescribe or send her any pills.
"I was called before a Coroner’s jury one time before. It is about 3 years.
"She invited me over to get some chow chow and chili sauce.
"She did not tell me that any one sent her pills when I called upon her last Wednesday.
"All that I have testified to happened at Tiburon May 8th. When I came the other day I did not perform any operations. I have some patent rights for my medicines and use them for such cases as they are patented for.
"I correct myself that I do not know Mr. Ahern. My medicines are used for rheumatism and liver trouble.
"The case I was called before the Coroner before on was a case where a lady died of chirohsis [sic] of the liver.
Julia A. Shiland"[iv]
Given that the box of pills on Sarah Ahern’s bureau had the name and address of Julia Achard on it, it seems unlikely that they came from anyone other than the midwife, herself. But the coroner’s jury determined:
"In the matter of the Inquisition upon the body of Sarah E. Ahern deceased before Edward Eden, Coroner.
"We the undersigned the Jurors summoned to appear before Edward Eden, the Coroner of the County of Marin at Tiburon on the 10 day of May 1901 to inquire into the cause of the death of Sarah E. Ahern having been duly sworn according to law, and having made such inquisition, after inspecting the body and hearing the testimony adduced upon our oaths each and all do say, that we find the deceased was names Sarah E. Ahern, was a native of California aged 31 years; that she came to her death on the 10 day of May 1901 in this county by blood poising [sic] following miscarriage from causes unknown to this jury."[v]
Julia Achard Shiland faced no charges in connection with the death of Sarah Ahern.
More next week.
[i] San Francisco Chronicle, 12 May 1901, page 11 “Verdict Rendered by a Coroner’s Jury at Tiburon”
[ii] Testimony of Coroner’s inquest held May 10,1901 at Tiburon Marin Co upon the remains of Mrs. Sarah Elizabeth Ahern, Edward Eden Coroner. Filed in the Office of the County Clerk of the County of Marin State of California this 6 day of June 1901, Rob E. Graham, County Clerk by F S Holland, Deputy, transcribed by Mary E Roddy.
[iii] Marriage date - Familysearch.org, California, County Marriages, 1850-1952, 005686492, Image of 699 event date: 09 Mar 1901, event place: Santa Clara, California, United States, page: 465, film number: 1302028, digital folder number: 005686492, image number: 00237; James Shiland’s age and occupation - US Census, 1900, Year: 1900; Census Place: San Francisco, San Francisco, California; Roll: 103; Page: 8B; Enumeration District: 0139; FHL microfilm: 1240103, line 67
[iv] Testimony of Coroner’s inquest held May 10,1901 at Tiburon Marin Co upon the remains of Mrs. Sarah Elizabeth Ahern
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Mary Kircher Roddy is a genealogist, writer and lecturer, always looking for the story. Her blog is a combination of the stories she has found and the tools she used to find them.